So many amazing poetry collections have been released in 2018, and, as the year draws to a close, I wanted to run through some of my favorites.
Lots of exciting things have been happening in American poetry this year. New and experienced poets alike have responded to the toxic political climate with collections of dynamic, socially conscious poems that play with language and reflect on what it means to navigate an increasingly unstable society.
All the poets on this list seem to conceive of poetry as something that can be a meaningful part of everyday life; their work deals candidly with difficult subjects, and it expands our understanding of what poems are capable of doing.
This list is by no means comprehensive, and I’d love to discuss your favorite collections, American or otherwise, in the comments!
A pensive debut collection of poems, Eye Level reflects upon the self in motion: Jenny Xie questions what it means to enter and exit the boundaries of a place. The collection spans a wide range of the globe—Phnom Penh, Corfu, Hanoi, New York—as well as subject matter—urban life, family history, migration, belonging. Xie’s language is musical and touching, and it’s easy to see why the collection was shortlisted for the National Book Award in Poetry.
A breakup poem in couplets, Junk is the final book in Tommy Pico’s Teebs trilogy. Writing in the stream-of-consciousness mode, using textspeak, Pico embeds musings about love and loss, race and class, trauma and grief, within an expanse of pop cultural references, caustic jokes, and offhand remarks about daily life. The writing is fresh, the style daring, and Pico’s commentary on indigenous life in America is sharp and clever.
In her fifth book of poems, Ada Limón writes thoughtfully about fertility, passion, loss, creativity, and, occasionally, politics, all through the lens of her daily life. Pain laces many of the poems, but Limón’s outlook is fundamentally optimistic, her work measured and tranquil. The collection’s straightforward language and interest in everyday life lends it broad appeal, making it accessible even to those who typically do not read poetry.
Experimental and candid, Bury It questions what it means to grieve and experience great loss: the best of the poems center on sam sax’s reactions to his first love’s death. Many of the poems are cryptic, and a sense of dread pervades the collection. These poems are definitely best read while in a certain mindset, but the writing is reflective and moving.
In Not Here, Hieu Minh Nguyen confronts his relationship to space, memory, and pain as a queer Vietnamese-American man. The collection consists of a mix of long and short pieces, addressing everything from childhood trauma to the loss of love, and it features a wide array of forms. Nguyen’s versatility as a poet is mesmerizing, as are the cadences of his poems. This has been my favorite poetry read of the fall, and I’d highly recommend it.
In fast moving verse, Eileen Myles comments upon politics, pop culture, desire, selfhood, and more in their latest collection, Evolution. The best of the poems speed through eclectic subjects such as Trump’s election, the Shakers’ history, the loss of the poet’s mother, Comey’s public persona, and women’s ambition. The collection can be disorienting, but at their best Myles is highly engaging and dynamic.
An anthology without a theme, New Poets of Native Nations features twenty-one poets of Native nations whose first books were published after the year 2000. The editor’s aim was to spotlight variety, not define a shared cultural context for all Native poets, so a wide range of styles are included. The collection serves as an excellent introduction to Native poets, and it’s easily been one of my favorites from the year.